Issues: Funding

We envision a future where there is adequate funding for all people with mental health needs and developmental disabilities to access the service and supports they need in the setting of their choosing.  The only way to achieve this, especially in the current budget environment, is by uniting the workers, families, advocates and individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities to speak with one voice to preserve essential services and aggressively pursue new funding streams that increase access.
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Congressional Budget Puts Human Services at Risk, Frontline Workers Speak Out

Instead of making the 1% – the rich and big corporations – pay their fair share, House Republicans voted to make unprecedented and devastating cuts to essential services at a time when 99% of families can least afford it.

These service cuts would hurt millions of people with mental illness and developmental disabilities. At the same time, some in Congress want to give the richest 1% and big corporations more than $4 trillion in tax cuts.

Money from the federal government is by far the single largest source of revenue for state and local governments. So what Congress does matters a lot.

Direct support professional, Cantave Pamphile, tells Congress to get its priorities straight

Cantave Pamphile, Direct Support Professional, Massachusetts

My name is Cantave Pamphile. I started this work because of the experience I had with my nephew. He has Down Syndrome and I saw what my sister was doing to take care of him. I wanted to be able to provide that assistance to others who need it. I see that if these individuals are given a hand, they can really be able to live the independent lives that they want to.

The best part of the job for me is just working with the individuals and spending time with them. We can see how much our work means to them and contributes to their well-being.

We’re often staffed just enough to maintain the proper level of care for our individuals, and there are so many more things that we could do with the individuals if we had the resources.

If funding for the individuals that we serve were cut, it would affect them a lot. There are eight individuals in the house that I work in, but we only have three staff at a time. The people that I work with need a lot of assistance, so if we were to lose just one staff person, the result would be dramatic. The whole system could fall apart.

Every one of the individuals that I work with has become a part of my family, and I feel like I’ve become a part of theirs. We spend so much time with them, making sure that they have the support they need, that it’s just natural to be close with them and their families. I can’t imagine not being a part of their lives.

Members of Congress need to hear about the individuals that I work with and how much they depend on the services that we deliver. They need to know how the work we do allows individuals to live as independently as possible, and without our work they would be left hanging.

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Coworkers, family & community allies remember slain mental health provider

Candlelight vigil in Peabody, MA

Coworkers, family members, and community allies held statewide candlelight vigils to remember slain mental health provider Stephanie Moulton on her birthday.  She would have been 26.  Stephanie was killed just over a year ago, allegedly by a mentally ill client in Revere, MA.

Since Stephanie’s tragic death, her family, mental health advocates and coworkers have been working on key legislative initiatives that would improve safety in the mental health system, including “Stephanie’s Law,” which would require Department of Mental Health facilities in Massachusetts to be equipped with panic buttons.

Panic buttons – which would be used to call for help in the event of an emergency – could save lives.

Two-hundred people participated in events across Massachusetts last night honored Stephanie by highlighting the need for immediate implementation of measures to prevent and respond to threats to worker safety in the mental health system.  People from around the country sent messages to Stephanie’s family and some shared their own stories about workplace violence within the mental health system.  Please click here: to send Stephanie’s family a letter of condolence and to share your own story of workplace violence.


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Remembering slain mental health provider Stephanie Moulton

Stephanie Moulton would have turned 26 years-old today.

About a year ago, the mental health provider was repeatedly stabbed to death by one of her mental health patients at the Revere facility, a Massachusetts state-run facility.

At the time of the incident Stephanie was working alone. She didn’t have a panic button, security or anything else to circumvent what took place after the patient was triggered.

Stephanie’s family, friends and SEIU Local Union 509 have since teamed up to push for legislation requiring mental health facilities to have panic button equipment for all its providers. Though one would think this would have been implemented days after Stephanie’s death, a year later this simple step in the right direction is caught up in endless committee.

While there will be statewide candlelight vigils taking place in Massachusetts today, we are calling on members and activists to send Stephanie’s family a letter of condolence, of solidarity, and if moved to do so, their own story as it relates to violence on the job. We will be certain that every response is personally delivered.

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Super-Committee FAIL: Democrats Hold Firm; Republicans Side With Millionaires

TaxBreaksforWealthy.jpgLate Monday afternoon, the congressional Super-Committee announced their failure to put forward a proposal to cut $1.2 trillion from the U.S. budget over the next 10 years.

Time and time again, the Super-Committee proved unable to reach an agreement on long-term deficit reduction for one reason and one reason only:

Republicans refused to make the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share.

Despite an overwhelming majority of Americans wanting the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share, Republicans refused to budge from their stance that Bush tax cuts be preserved while cutting programs that the middle class, seniors, and most Americans depend on.

Democrats on the Super-Committee stood their ground that the rich pay their fair share or no deal. They insisted that everyone in America pay their fair share and prevented devastating cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and other programs that millions of Americans rely on for their healthcare and livelihoods.

By rejecting the Republican proposals that came out of the Super-Committee, Democrats were expressing the views of the vast majority of Americans and standing behind them. While these efforts were able to prevent a bad deal from coming out of the Super-Committee, this fight is far from over.

“Now, it’s up to both chambers to focus on putting Americans back to work. That is the best way to reduce our deficit,” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry in a statement following the announcement by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. “A cuts-only approach will not work and will end up shifting responsibility to already stretched state budgets and cost millions of jobs.”

[Read Mary Kay's entire statement on SEIU.org here].

In a White House press briefing Monday evening, President Obama took Republicans to task for not proposing any serious deficit reduction proposals that would required shared sacrifice:

“There’s still too many Republicans in Congress who have refused to listen to the voices of reason and compromise that are coming from outside of Washington. They continue to insist on protecting $100 billion worth of tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans at any cost [...]“

More details from the New York Times on the failure of the Super-Committee to propose a plan to identify $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions in time for the November 23rd deadline.

99-percent-facebook-badge.jpgShow your support for the 99% percent by downloading and sharing a “We are the 99%” window sign or Facebook badge.

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Tell Congress to Get Their Priorities Straight!

I wanted to share this email I just received from SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry.

Dear Peter,

Sometimes our representatives in Washington lose their way.

It’s as simple as this: America needs good jobs, not more healthcare cuts.

Democratic and Republican members of the congressional “Super-Committee” are poised to cut Medicare and Medicaid rather than end tax giveaways for big corporations and millionaires.

That’s just plain wrong.

Please call to tell your member of Congress that they cannot support a Super-Committee deal that takes away the healthcare that seniors, people with disabilities and working families are counting on and destroys jobs. Here’s the number:

877-736-7831

Recent news reports say that these members of Congress are reviewing proposals that include staggering cuts to Medicaid and Medicare to the tune of $500 billion or more.

Cuts of this magnitude would be a terrible deal for 99% of Americans and especially disastrous for seniors, people with disabilities and children who rely on these lifesaving healthcare services. America’s middle class is hurting. Instead of cutting healthcare and cutting jobs, it’s time for Congress to ask millionaires and big corporations to do their part in reducing our nation’s deficit.

Call your member(s) of Congress and tell them that to say NO to any deal that cuts Medicaid and Medicare and yes to protecting the jobs that get America working again:

877-736-7831

Keep Fighting,

Mary Kay Henry
SEIU International President

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Cutting Medicaid Means Cutting Jobs

As the Congressional supercommittee looks for places to trim the federal budget, early reports forecast that Medicaid is on the chopping block for either direct cuts or massive cost shifting to already financially-strapped states.

What’s missing from these negotiations is the recognition of the positive value Medicaid has on the economy of every state.

Every $1 million spent on federal Medicaid funding results in 17.1  new jobs

REALITY: Medicaid benefits are not actually a major driver of the deficit. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

When it comes to job creation, investment in healthcare through Medicaid is one of the most effective and efficient forms of economic stimulus. Every dollar spent on Medicaid–whether from state or from federal sources–provides vital healthcare services to seniors, children and people with disabilities while bringing additional economic benefits and new jobs to everyone in that state.

Cutting federal spending on Medicaid, then, means cutting jobs.

Send a message to your member of Congress to focus on jobs, not cuts.

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How Proposed Cuts to Medicaid Would Cut Jobs

In the name of reducing our federal deficit, some members of the Congressional supercommittee would rather risk jobs and the lifesaving healthcare services millions of seniors, people with disabilities and children rely on than raise taxes on the richest individuals and corporations in this country.

We do not ‘need’ to cut Medicaid in order to put Americans back to work. If the proposed cuts Congress is considering become a reality, they will have the exact opposite of the desired effect – resulting in the loss of not just healthcare services but also millions of good-paying jobs.

We’ve created a chart using the Families USA “Jobs At Risk” data to provide you with a clearer picture of how cuts to Medicaid would impact jobs and state economies.

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Check out the full chart here.

More useful resources and facts after the break on why Medicaid matters for putting Americans back to work.

Why Medicaid Matters For Jobs

The Straight Facts:

  • According to the Economic Policy Institute, the Ryan plan will cut Medicaid by $207B resulting in a private sector job loss of 2.1M over the next 5 years.
  • In another month of otherwise stagnant job growth, more than 44,000 jobs were created in the healthcare sector.
  • Every $1 million in federal Medicaid spending results in 17.1 new jobs. Cutting federal spending on Medicaid, then, means cutting jobs.
  • Healthcare continues to be a growing industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 10 of the 20 fastest growing occupations are healthcare related.
  • 3.2 million new healthcare wage and salary jobs will be generated between 2008 and 2018, more than any other industry.

Resources:

Much more on how investments in Medicaid create jobs and stimulate the economy on our new campaign page: www.seiu.org/healthcare-jobs.

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SEIU Members and Disability Rights Advocates Tell Congress “My Medicaid Matters!”

Our union’s home care workers provide lifesaving care to seniors and people with disabilities every single day around the country. They’re on the front lines of personal care and know all too well how cutting and gutting Medicaid will affect their consumers, their families and simultaneously cost hardworking people good jobs — jobs that cannot be outsourced or shipped overseas to other countries.

Folks have had about enough of the blatant disrespect the threat to gut Medicaid is toward our most vulnerable citizens–and the workers caring for them. It is for this reason that more than 40 home care members from 10 different states joined forces with disability rights advocates and allies today to participate in a “My Medicaid Matters” rally on Capitol Hill.

And the fight didn’t end there: Our members then went off to meet with the staff of 16 Senators, including members of the “super committee.”

When Gilda Brown, a home care worker from Chicago, had the chance to talk with some of the Senate staff, she drilled home how important Medicaid Matters with a story from a “normal day” of work for her:

“The woman I care for has sickle cell anemia and relies on me for everything. One day in the middle of the winter the furnace caught on fire, “Don’t leave me here,” she said, “Don’t let me die.” After instructing her to call 911, I ran down into the basement and began smothering the fire.”

Can you imagine how this day would have ended if Gilda was not there for her client? Cuts to Medicaid, as being proposed, would force her client to pay out of pocket for homecare – if she could afford to pay for homecare. If she couldn’t afford the care, however – what happens then?

Home care worker Julia Newton, member of SEIU Local 5, became a personal care attendant because of her son Antoine, who is autistic and needs around-the-clock care. Julia is also in town to participate in the important Why Medicaid Matters campaign.

Julia shared the story of Antoine being on the urgent waiting list for a Medicaid waiver for 10 years.

“Together with my fellow homecare workers, we led a campaign in the Virginia legislature to add more people in critical need of homecare services to our Medicaid program,” she said. “My son is one of the new lucky recipients, but there are thousands of Virginians who are still on the Medicaid waiting list who are not so lucky. This isn’t right!”

It’s time we get Congress to think long and hard about our seniors and neighbors with disabilities. We need to Congress to consider that cutting Medicaid would also eliminate millions of jobs the homecare and long term care industry currently employs.

Will you make yourselves heard with Gilda and Julia? Click here to take action to protect Medicaid now.

View photos from today’s action on Flickr here.

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Local 509 and Advocates Call on State to Put Mental Health Client and Worker Safety First

SEIU Local 509 had a very successful week working in partnership with families, the trade association, advocacy organizations, legislators, and consumers.  There was major news coverage of our call to action to improve safety measures in the state’s mental health system. Most notably was an op-ed in the Boston Globe, written in collaboration between the Presidents of both the SEIU Local 509 and the Behavioral Health Association, calling attention to the necessity that the state  implement all of the Safety Task Force recommendations.

Both our organizations and our members understand the critical importance of staff and consumer safety at DMH-funded programs. Safety is an essential condition for the success of these services in helping individuals achieve recovery. Direct care workers, providers, consumers, DMH and the Legislature need to work together to for the benefit of both consumers and staff in passage of comprehensive legislation based on the recommendations of the DMH Task Force on Staff and Client Safety.

Press coverage also included a six minute radio interview on WBUR with SEIU 509, NAMI-Mass, and the family of Stephanie Moulton, a human service worker allegedly killed by a mentally ill client. There were also two news articles on a rally spear-headed by the Moulton Family, SEIU Local 509, and The Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health.

Here are some links to those articles:
Family of Slain Caseworker to Testify on Beacon Hill for ‘Stephanie’s Law’
Service Workers, Family of Slain Peabody Woman Rally for Statewide Safety Reform

Photo from Rally for Stepanie's Law

Photo from Rally for Stepanie

Local 509 also testified in favor of “Stephanie’s Law” at State House, as a part of an overall safety reform campaign in the mental health system.

Photo from ocmmittee hearing on Stephanies Law

Photo from committee hearing on Stephanie

This bill, named after Stephanie Moulton, would require all DMH facilities to be equipped with panic buttons. Local 509 is proud to garner support for this bill and will keep working with all stakeholders to improve all areas of safety for human service workers.

509 Members at Rally for Stephanies Law

509 Members at Rally for Stephanie

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Action! SEIU Members Take To The Streets To Save Medicaid In Debt Ceiling Debate

The drawn-out debt ceiling debate galvanized working people to come together en masse to redirect the discussion from catering to CEOs in board rooms to creating jobs and relieving the pain of families at their kitchen tables across the country. SEIU Members and community allies stood together to tell Congress to fund vital human services for people with disabilities like Medicaid, NOT tax breaks for corporations who ship jobs overseas.

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In the weeks leading up to the critical final hours of the debt ceiling debate, SEIU active and retiree members made more than 16,000 calls, sent emails and took to the streets to say loud and clear that cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security would be unacceptable. Read on for a round-up of actions that SEIU members took part in NY, IL, MN, PA, MA, OH, CA, WI and FL.

New York

Seniors and community members from Long Island and NYC took action to get their message heard loud and clear: instead of slashing funds to programs like Medicare and Medicaid, banks should be helping balance the budget. More than 150 people organized by United NY, 1199SEIU and 32BJ held “Knit-Ins” at banks on August 3 to create blankets that say “Save Medicare.” The blankets will be hand-delivered to members of Congress during the August recess.

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Earlier in July, SEIU Local200U members who provide support for people with developmental disabilities joined with community ally the Center for Disability Rights to pay a visit to Representative Buerkle’s staff for a discussion about proposed cuts in Medicaid. As part of the visit, members delivered over 800 postcards they’d collected calling on Rep. Buerkle and Rep. Gibson to fund Medicaid services for people with disabilities, not tax breaks for corporate jet owners.

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“We help people cope with life and take care of themselves,” said Local 200U member Dave Zimmerman. “If cuts are made to Medicaid, which is the funding which provides these folks the opportunity to be on their own, it would negatively impact their lives and diminish their dreams.”

Minnesota

SEIU members joined an audience of 60 constituents at U.S. Representative Erik Paulsen’s district office to tell him not to balance the budget on the backs of seniors and working families.

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Members and activists protested and held signs outside of U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack’s office, telling him to “Stop Protecting Fat Cats.” In contrast, members gathered in a gesture of appreciation outside the office of U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum to show their thanks for her strong opposition to cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

Pennsylvania

SEIU Healthcare PA members took action by visiting the district offices of Reps. Tim Holden and Jason Altmire to send the message that we cannot solve the ongoing debt ceiling debate through cut and gut economic policies only. Watch video here.

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Massachusetts

1199SEIU members, hospital representatives, healthcare advocates and faith leaders gathered on the steps of the state house in late July to urge their Congressional delegation to stand strong in the face of potential Medicaid cuts. “My patients are not just numbers to me and I want them to not be just numbers to Washington, D.C.,” said Nadia Vilmont, a patient access representative at Boston Medical Center. Read more about the event.

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Illinois

In late July, Senator Mark Kirk’s capitol office in Springfield became a scene filled with dozens of SEIU members chanting “Show some guts; stop the cuts!” Read more about the Springfield action.

Ohio

Veterans, seniors and other concerned citizens met up at outside the offices of Congressman Bill Johnson and Congressman John Boehner to protest proposed cuts. A group also rallied outside the office of Senator Rob Portman to voice their concerns about cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

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California

SEIU-UHW members at St. Francis Medical Center mobilized to speak with the media about why it’s important to have a deal that protects Medicaid for seniors, children and the disabled. Read more.

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In Fresno, 500 healthcare workers rallied alongside concerned citizens outside the office of Rep. Jeffrey Denham (R-CA), to tell the congressman to prioritize job creation when Congress re-convenes in September after the August recess. “Congressman Denham campaigned on the promise of creating more jobs,” said SEIU-UHW VP Stan Lyles, “but he hasn’t voted for one single jobs bill.” Watch video here.

Wisconsin

SenDarling_MedicaidMedicarefuneral.jpgIn Glendale, supporters staged a funeral procession, complete with a hearse and coffins, outside of Senator Alberta Darlings’ office. In spite of the fact that Medicaid and Medicare provide critical healthcare to hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin residents, Darling supports Paul Ryan’s extreme plan to undermine the nation’s historic health care commitments to seniors, children and people with disabilities.

“When it comes to issues that matter to working Wisconsin families, State Senator Alberta Darling is not on our side,” said Dian Palmer, RN, President of SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin. Watch video of the procession.

Florida

SEIU members and seniors participated in rallies in Tallahassee and West Palm Beach. In West Palm Beach, activists from MoveOn.org and the Florida Alliance of Retired Americans joined SEIU members gathering outside U.S. Representative Allen West’s office to protest West’s support for the “Cut, Cap, and Balance Act,” which would greatly diminish Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits for Floridians who need them the most.

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Refocus: JOBS, not cuts

The debt ceiling deal was a last ditch attempt to avert financial disaster, but it by no means secures the future of Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this is precisely why it’s time for unions and progressives mobilize their core activists and members even more for a series of bold actions on jobs that Congress can’t ignore.

We need a better vision of America, where we can work for a living, support our families, and retire with dignity. Simply put, working people need leaders to lead. But if we want Congress to show more courage to stand up and get serious about job creation, then we need to start showing more fight and displaying more courage ourselves.

You can get started right now by calling your member of Congress right now to tell them to focus on creating jobs for millions of workers and preserving the benefits of retirees. Send them a message here.

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